DURHAM, N.H. — Boston University jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then hung on in the end, as the No. 10 Terriers defeated No. 7 New Hampshire, 3-2.
In beating New Hampshire for the second consecutive year in the last game of the season at the Whittemore Center, the Terriers denied what could have been an outright regular-season title for the Wildcats. Two points would have given UNH one more than Boston College, which tied Maine, 2-2.
Last season, BU needed a win up in Durham in the regular-season finale just to get into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. They did it in grand style, winning 4-3 in overtime.
The loss for UNH (22-9-5, 15-5-4 Hockey East) was especially tough to swallow, not just for the fact that they missed out on a chance to be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Hockey East quarterfinals, but also because they didn’t even get the second seed.
With the victory, BU (21-11-4, also 15-5-4 Hockey East) tied UNH in points with 34, but the Terriers won the tiebreaker, and thus UNH dropped all the way down to No. 3 after starting the night tied for first place.
The playoff seedings are now set, with Boston College earning the No. 1 seed with a win and a tie against Maine this weekend in Boston. The Eagles will face No. 8 seed Massachusetts. BU faces a familiar playoff foe in No. 7 Providence, while New Hampshire will host No. 6 Northeastern.
UMass-Lowell travels to No. 4 seed Maine in the other quarterfinal matchup next weekend.
“Not much difference between these two teams,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “A one-goal game in the first meeting that they won (4-3, November 5 in Manchester, N.H.), then a tie at our place onThursday, and another one-goal game tonight.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game overall. I thought we did a great job killing penalties. This is a very, very good power play team.
“With (Bryan) Miller out, I thought that Tom Morrow really stepped up and had a great two-game series, both in Boston and here tonight,” said Parker of the senior defenseman from Afton, Minn.
It was as if UNH coach Dick Umile had a glass to the pressroom wall during Parker’s postgame comments.
“Not much difference between both teams,” said Umile, obviously disappointed with the outcome.
“The guys battled back. I thought in the third period that we had a couple of opportunities to tie (the game) up. It was no lack of effort, just no puck luck.”
As was the case a week before against Boston College, UNH came out of the dressing room looking for blood in the first period. The Wildcats had several good scoring chances early on in the game, to say the least.
Barely a minute into the game, senior Justin Aikins had a wide-open net to shoot at after BU sophomore goaltender John Curry mishandled what looked like a harmless shot from the right faceoff circle. But Aikins shot missed the mark.
Just minutes later, sophomore Josh Ciocco looked to have poked in a sure goal, but the puck lay precariously on the goal line just long enough for Curry to find the handle and get a faceoff whistle.
“They (UNH) could have had two or three goals the first couple of minutes, ” said Parker. “It was almost exactly like the BC game that they played last Saturday that we watched on tape.”
And as was the case last Saturday in the 5-2 loss to the Eagles on home ice, NewHampshire not only had nothing to show for its troubles early on, it also found itself quickly down 2-0.
Freshman defenseman Kevin Kielt whiffed on a slap shot attempt from the UNH blue line, sending a knuckleball instead to the Wildcat net. The shot amounted to a pass to fellow freshman Brian Ewing, who slid a pass through the crease to a wide-open Kenny Roche. The sophomore from St. Sebastian’s and SouthBoston had an easy tap-in for his fifth goal of the season.
A little over two minutes later, a miscue by a UNH defenseman trying to corral a pop-up sent into the Wildcat zone led to BU’s second goal.
The puck ended up on the stick of freshman Peter MacArthur, who curled around theUNH net nicely in getting New Hampshire freshman goalie Kevin Regan to commit. MacArthur flipped the puck over the sprawled Regan, and just as happened the week before, all of a sudden theWildcats found themselves in a 2-0 deficit to a team from Boston.
Junior John Laliberte almost made it 3-0 on a two on one breakout, but his shot went over the net. Laliberte again had a chance shortly thereafter on a partial breakaway on a BU power play, but he was hooked while trying to get the shot off.
The result was a penalty on the Wildcats and a two-man advantage for the Terriers. UNH, however, did a good job of penalty killing and held BU at bay to stay in the game.
Although UNH got out of the gate quickly in the first period, BU ended up out-shooting the Wildcats 8-6 in the period.
It was more of the same in the second period, as junior David Van der Gulik scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season after a scrum in front of Regan.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot by getting down so early and often,” said UNH senior Sean Collins. “Its one thing to be down 1-0, but when you go down 2-0 or 3-0, it makes it tough to come back.”
UNH would come back, though, as they did two of the last three games.
The Wildcats finally got on the board at 11:02 of the middle stanza, as Thursday night hero Collins threaded a pass along the crease to fellow senior Preston Callander, who potted his 19th goal of the year.
With 1:20 left in the period, sophomore Jacob Micflikier won a faceoff to the right of Curry back to Aikins, whose shot went past a screened Curry to cut the deficit to 3-2, with the Whittemore Center crowd erupting.
That set up a nail-biting third period.
Callander, New Hampshire’s best player on the ice, was stopped on two scoring bids in front early on. Callander would be set up nicely again by Collins, only to be thwarted by Curry, and he hit the post later on in the period.
“I don’t think we can mention enough the play of John Curry,” said Parker. “He’s no surprise anymore. He was at the beginning of the year, but now he’s money in the bank.”
While it certainly seemed as though New Hampshire would eventually get the equalizer,Curry and his BU teammates made sure it wouldn’t happen. UNH pulled Regan for an extra skater with 55 seconds left in regulation, but could not register a quality scoring chance, as the final seconds ticked down to another tough home loss to the Terriers.
“It’s not that we’re playing bad hockey right now,” said Collins. “We’re still confident.”
Boston University is the only Hockey East team with a winning record at the Whittemore Center, improving its mark to 6-4-4 at what has generally been a House of Horrors to every other Hockey East team.
“Being a leader on the team, you’ve got to pick guys up,” said senior defenseman Robbie Barker, one of five seniors honored before the game.
“The young guys on this team don’t know what a championship feels like. We do,” said Barker, reflecting back on a class that helped UNH reach two Frozen Fours, an NCAA championship-game appearance, plus back-to-back regular-season and Hockey East tournament championships.
“The practices that we’ll have this week….you’ll see the seniors as leaders — pushing the pace,” added Barker. “It comes down to making them (the freshmen and sophomores) make plays. It’s the difference between winning 3-2 and losing 3-2.”
Meanwhile, Boston University will face a familiar foe in the upcoming Hockey East quarterfinals, in the Providence Friars. The Terriers and Friars have faced each other several times over the past 10 years in the quarterfinals.
“Zancanaro versus Zancanaro……again,” sighed Parker, in reference Brad Zancanaro, his first-line junior forward, who will be going against his twin brother on the Friars.
Boston University will host Providence next Friday and Saturday nights at Agganis Arena in Boston in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals (Sunday if necessary). New Hampshire hosts Northeastern on Thursday and Friday nights (Saturday if necessary). All games are at 7 p.m.